Monday, November 29, 2010

When Life Gives Your Lemons, Go To An Ironman Finish Line

I argue there are few things more electric than an IM finish line with 10 minutes to go until midnight.  Some are more electric than others, for sure, but undeniably the emotions wrought after 17 hours of physical exertion, heat, and more citrus-flavored carb and electrolyte products than any human should ever have to ingest are some of the truest a person will ever experience.  And watching them experience those emotions never fails to make my misty-eyed.

Hey, what can I say?  IM and Disney movies.  Oh, and the end of Schindler's List...and Braveheart too...and that Visa commercial for the Olympics where the sprinter's father helps him cross the finish line after he tears his hamstring mid-race...

But back to the finish line...


Life really is so much better with a big screen on which you can watch yourself run to the finish line with the detritus and ravages of 10+ hours of racing clearly visible.  Like that Ziploc of Vaseline I stuck in my sports bra back at 7:40 AM.  Yummy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your last ass over the pass award recipient of IM Cozumel 2010:


16:58:40.  Now that is what I call a long day at the office.  She deserves every ounce of respect that comes with being called an Ironman.  I hope she wears the finishers medal home under her clothes.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Hostess With The Mostest

To be very honest, Cozumel is not a place I would necessarily visit if not for a race.  But I should quickly clarify that Cozumel is not to blame.  "It's not you, it's me."

Cozumel the tourist and cruise-ship destination is about three things: drinking, beaches, and scuba diving.  Since I do none of these things, I am kind of at a loss.  [By not doing beaches, I mean that once I am there I have no idea what to do or how to make myself enjoy it.  To sit in the sun, covered in oily lotion and sweating, sticking to the sand and my towel and the pages of my book, boiling in my own skin and potentially taking days off my life?  Yes, I can see exactly why people love spending time at the beach...]  Cozumel is more like the place I usually stumble into after several days or weeks in the jungle (or desert if Africa) to get a shower, food, and a bed.  [Cozumel the cultural center does exist and I did find it.  Stay tuned!]

But one day a year, Cozumel is all about IM, and the week beforehand, the entire island is set about preparing for IM.

In fact, at the race briefing when discussing the bike and run courses, the speaker actually said "basically the island is paralyzed by the race" and the audience applauded.  Leave it to triathletes to discommode an entire island for an entire day and be happy about it.

Anyway, the lengths to which the island and its population goes are impressive.  The speed bumps normally in place to control traffic speeds are removed.  Roads are repaved by hand.  Curbs are hand-scraped and hand-repainted.  Signs hung everywhere call for residents to spectate, cheer, and encourage all the way until midnight.  One sign describes the distance as 13 ferry trips between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, a trip commonly made by locals.  The volunteers, as is IM standard, work long and hot hours with enthusiasm and energy, cut short only when their stations run out of supplies, unfortunately also an IM standard.  Families gather and picnic, lining the streets and medians in town.  Plus now I know where all the vuvuzelas from the World Cup ended up. 

Every city that hosts an IM race adds its own unique spice.  Cozumel's is truly de bienvenida.

Now for a few pictures:

The swim exit...not so hard on the eyes
Notice how the bike course uses the entire main road around the island
Christmas in Mexico...trimming pine trees under a beer tent
The Real Tour D'Brew continues
I sense a beer war brewing...
Construction Cozumel style: man climbs the arch while a man holds it up with a pole...notice the feet barely visible through the white fabric...all over our heads at body-marking

Super user-friendly ITU-style racks
 Bags are packed and racked.  The last hit out of the season starts bright and early.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Real Tour d'Brew

Apparently we are on the real Tour d'Brew, so I have modified my picture taking appropriately on my bike lap around the island.
Looking south toward the reggae bar and Brazil
the interior of the island
thank goodness the swim is on the other side of the island...
the bike course: wind and Cuba off the starboard bow
beckoning from the side of the bike course...
Come on in, Mom, the beer's fine
And finally, we may need to discuss alternative public relations strategies....


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Today's Sign Of The Apocalypse

Ma Support Crew had a beer at dinner.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Don't Drink The Water Unless Its Ironman Perform

¡Hola! from the hot and humid isle of Cozumel.  My bike and I are here, but my luggage liked Austin too much to leave.  It's a good thing my mother and I are a similar size. 

I wanted to share a few pictures from the first day's excitements.  I used to travel and work overseas, mostly in the developing world, but never Mexico, which itself is more First and A Half World, especially in resort destinations such as this.  Some aspects of the city/island definitely identify it as up-and-coming (my PC term for developing), while others make you question if the plane simply flew around in circles and dropped you off at the same airport you left.

Just in case you wonder which paradise you've wandered into


Is there a race here no one bothered to tell me about?
Our front "yard"
BULK Fruit Loops, People!  And in the bin on the left, BULK Cocoa Crisipies.

When we were directed to the supermarket on the corner, they really meant the Super Target on the corner
You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the CostCo out of the girl

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Last Hurrah

My list of want-to-do's was still long as I started my last day in Austin.  As I flew around town getting in my last few sessions, acquiring and packing, I tried to check a few last items off.

Barton Springs Pool is the kind of facility you see only in a well-oiled community with a lot of foresight.  Honestly, in DC, Barton Creek and Springs would be filled with rotting fish and wind-swept Styrofoam food containers, instead of early-morning swimmers and environmentally sensitive lizards.

A creek runs down through the Austin Greenbelt - a 7-mile snake of forest, water, and sadly-unexplored-by-me trails that runs from the hill country to the west of the city, underneath most of the  major highways... - to abut the Town Lake river.  A good number of decades ago the creek was dammed just downstream of the spring that feeds it to create a mostly au natural swimming pool.  Probably 300 yards long, with 200 yards at a swimmable depth or deeper, some of the bottom is cemented and the rest is aquaculture growth that presumably gets a tad bit out of control during the summer, when it must be like flying a small single-prop plane through sky-scrapers.  The spring keeps the water a steady 68 degrees year-round and the stadium lighting permits open water swimming of 400 yard laps from 5 am to 10 pm.  The shallow up-stream portion and diving well keep the kids more than entertained.

Downstream

Upstream

From environmentally sensitive lizards to dry-rubbed beef...


TacoDeli!!  It took me three weeks to get here, but man, was it worth the wait.  Although the thought of all those lost potential meals is sad :(



Left to right, Cowboy, Chicken Fundito, Beef Fundito.  Don't ask me what Fundito is.  For all I know it means "delicious."  Or more likely: "not for vegetarians."  I opted out of the chips and queso so I could opt into my race kit.  Next time.

And finally, Chuy's for dinner with My Gracious Host and The Modest Runner.  Between these two meals I consumed more corn tortillas in one day that the entire previous year, but "hand-made in Texas" recommends their consumption more than "purchased in aisle 7 at Safeway."

But then again Austin has many things to recommend it.  Next time.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tour d' Brew - UPDATED

I have a little project I've been working, aside from the SBR-ing and trailer-food eating.  The project wasn't consciously hatched so much as one day I looked back and decided to keep up the trend going forward.

Austin is home to a surprising number of independent coffee houses and for its size, surprisingly few Starbucks.  In DC, if I wanted to escape my couch and TV in the later part of the day I would be limited - by selection and transportation - to a few well-worn places...or Starbucks.  In Austin, not so.  Have car and laptop, will travel for decaf coffee and soymilk.

It started with perhaps the most well-worn coffee shop in Austin because I pass it every day and now it has blossomed into an independent-coffee-shop-per-day habit.  My dentist is not pleased.

I will update this post frequently.  Please post suggestions in the comments.

Nov 4 (Th) - Austin Java on Barton Springs - An intense debate simmers as to whether Austin Java has lost its atmosphere as this standby has transitioned from the order-only-in-the-line-at-the-counter to the server-order model (to-goes still have a line).  The in-line-only model irked those decisive ordering cash payers, but the server-order model irks those who hate to tip for a simple cup of coffee.  I cut through lots of red tape by ordering in the to-go line and drinking it at a table.  And yet the Earth still spins.

NOTE from Nov 11 - I finally ate food here.  Points added for serving breakfast all day, but points deducted for serving rehydrated hash browns.

NOTE from Nov 12 - Really not sold on their food.  Gingerbread pancake was a big enough FAIL they took it off my bill.

Nov 5 (Fri) - Mozarts on Lake Austin Blvd - GREAT and big deck on the lake for nice days and a skiing chalet feeling inside the "shop" for bad days.  Interestingly I think every single Indian in Austin was there when I was, plus lots of UT-Austin students as some student apartments are only a few blocks away.  Mozarts roasts all their own coffee and the roaster, Jack, gave me suggestions for my next couple days.

Nov 6 (Sat) - Central Market on South Lamar - Coffee bar/restaurant inside Austin's less expensive answer to Whole Foods.  Seating options are numerous, but options are a tiny table or MASSIVE booth.  Order some food (looked good) and stay for live music on most weekends.

Nov 7 (Sun) - Jo's on South Congress - Very popular because of foot traffic on SoCo.  The shop is in a building and the seating/counter is outside, so the line to order is literally down the block.  Sunny days allow for lots of people watching, but can require occasional reorganizing of computers/companions to avoid sun in the eyes.

Nov 8 (Mon) - Skipped coffee in favor of grocery shopping and picking up My Gracious Host at the airport.

Nov 9 (Tu) - Little City at 9th and Congress - Quiet place, but steady business.  One block from the state capitol building so the crowd is pretty straight laced and buttoned - but the shop thinks of itself as way hip.  I think the shop's vibe would resonate better in a neighborhood south of the lake.

Nov 10 (Wed) - Opa's on South Lamar - Now I know where all the Greeks in Austin are hiding.  Great outdoor seating and does brisk hummus/pita/wine business at night.  Better than most places for the deadbeat Wifi-users like me because it has (a few) uber-comfy chairs and one free refill with drip coffee.  The shop soundtrack the entire time I sat there: Boyz II Men.  It was like sipping coffee in one of my middle school mixers, with everyone around me speaking Greek.

Nov 11 (Th) - Bennu on East MLKJr. Blvd - Late afternoon on a week-day and it's packed, with UT-Austin students of course, but thanks to the law students debating torts and the po-mo-lit chick a few tables over with the teetering piles of Joan Didion and poetry, it has the well-lived-in feel of a library that serves coffee.  Where oh where was such a beast when I was in college?  The power cord remodel  - where a power cord dangles from the ceiling above each table, which are each straight out of Dogs Playing Poker - necessitated by the 21st explosion of laptops leaves the room with a slight sci-fi human-harvesting feel: every table is completely ringed by people, each staring at laptops, hooked directly to those laptops via headphones, and each laptop is plugged into a single cord that rises to the ceiling. A close-enough idea. Open 24/7.  Easily my favorite so far, but I would hate to see this place during finals...  Oh, and they serve Mexican Coke, if you know what that means.

Nov 12 (Fri) - Ruta Maya on way South Congress - A live music venue/hippie cultural center/fitness and yoga studio daylighting as a coffee shop.  The non-traditionalist vibe is immediately apparent, as is the fact that getting here is either a destination-specific schlep or your local coffee shop because you have no other options among the nondescript strips.  Frankly, this place feels like a bus station, complete with the random conversations about drugs and travelers who flitter about and never seem to leave, between buses.  Even weirder, it is a strip next to Clear Channel Communications, behind a strip club named Exposé.

Nov 13 (Sat) - Irie Bean on South Lamar, past Opa's - Decor was an afterthought for sure.  The vibe says "we are here to serve coffee to the employees and patrons of nearby businesses, not to create a destination for the neighborhood."  And the "nearby businesses" brings up an excellent observation about Austin: there are an inordinate number of tattoo parlors here (case in point: three within two blocks of Irie Bean).  Enough that a tour d' tattoo would be possible.  I won't be doing that tour.

Nov 14 (Sun) - Took the day off because frankly, I am a bit coffee'd out.  Uncle! 

Nov 15 (Mon) - Spiderhouse at 29th and Fruth, north of downtown - You know those coffee shops that take an old apartment and use the floor plan to their advantage?  This is a house with an incredibly large backyard, shared with the Hotel Reno next door.  Nightly movies; fat, sugar, and alcohol are also on the list of proven addictive stimulants sold at Spiderhouse; and a seriously quirky decorating streak.  Sadly, I couldn't stay long as their internet and my laptop didn't play well with each other; I suspect this is a common problem, based on the posted signs about alerting the waitstaff to technical issues.

Nov 16 (Tues) - Scooter's on William Cannon at Loop 1 - Chain.  Didn't know it when I came in, but through this little project I've become the coffee house whisperer.  I can read the signs.  First, this is the only place thus far that had decaf drip.  Most independent's force you to buy an Americano (same price; espresso shot with water added to desired volume) because brewed decaf almost never sells out before it goes "old."  Second, this physical building was born as a Starbucks, absolutely.  Thankfully a smaller, lesser known chain, while still a chain, saved this poor storefront from Starbucks-dom.  Third, the furniture matches.  Each and every piece.  Fourth, the music is "safe."  Fifth... But I can't complain too much since this chain is Midwest, born-and-bred.  Except that this might be only the second time I have consciously thought "this coffee just really isn't that good."

Nov 17 (Wed) - Pacha's on Burnet, north of 45th St off of Loop 1 - Yum!  Everything - Veggie Torta, Biscotti, decaf Americano - was so tasty (and organic) that once it was all gone I wanted to start over.  A very residential-based neighborhood, Rosedale, where Pacha's joins a few other businesses in converted houses on the "main" street.  I was here just prior to closing for the night, but I can see the clientele being couples reading the Sunday paper or local free-lance writers looking for a place to buy a coffee and sitting all day.  This find definitely makes up for yesterday's flop.

Nov 18 (Thurs) - Progress Coffee at 5th and San Marcos, immediately east of I35 - Old warehouse, converted into trendy high-rent lofts for bare-bones architectural firm and pretty fricking awesome coffee shops.  Oh, and running stores, as Rogue Running is immediately next door.  Middle of the day clientele are artists of the tech variety: photographers editing pictures, college professors grading papers, independent movie producers (if I'm reading the conversation correctly).  Nice outdoor seating area, oodles of parking, and coffee roasted in Austin by Owl City.  Apparently the thing to eat are the biscuits, but I'm afraid that if I have one of them I will need a life-jacket to afloat at swim practice tonight. 

Nov 19 (Fri) - Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Blvd - I'd had heard tell of their gingerbread pancakes, and unlike Austin Java's, Mags' did not disappoint.  They even handed over the recipe and one of the secret ingredients: brewed coffee.  However, Mags is not a coffee shop, it's a diner, and like most diners, you wouldn't come to Mags for the coffee - unless they started injecting the legal addictive stimulant it contains straight into your jugular.  Instead, you come to Mags because it's open 24 hours a day, 8 days a week, and offers tons of made-from-scratch specials and short-run items.  Oh, and no wifi :(

Nov 20 (Sat) - Kerbey Lane Cafe on Kerbey Lane (whoa..) - This morning at masters practice we were joking about skipping the third round of the main set and disappearing to Kerbey Lane on William Cannon.  I piped up "how about we go to the original?"  Someone responded "You haven't been here long enough to know that that place stinks."  The idea of the original Kerbey Lane was enough to induce my lane mates to stick around for the third round of timed swims and best average 100s.  Doesn't.bode.well. People, I am here to tell you, the original Kerbey Lane Cafe, located in a house on Kerbey Lane in NW Austin, does not smell.  It is however packed, with questionable wifi (I'm currently stealing from the pizza place next door) and not enough parking.   Like Mags, the food is far superior to a normal run-of-the-mill diner: lots of vegan options and fresh fruit and unique combinations.  The mocha tofu cheesecake is awh-maise-ing.  I wish I had come during the week, rather than the weekend, because weekend clientele are large family-ish reunions and collegial hungover recounts of the previous night.  The rest of the Kerbey Lane locations are spread around the city, including some that are downright suburban. 

Nov 21(Sun) - Thunderbird on Manor, east I35 - It's 9 pm and 80 degrees on a Sunday evening Austin.  At Thunderbird Mexican beers are on a $2 special and 10 out of the 12 laptops being used are Macs.  Most of the clientele sit at picnic tables in the fenced in front yard of a 1960s house with a facade straight out of Mad Men.  In what I'm told is the sketchy part of town, but frankly nothing in Austin is that sketchy and so close to campus, it's hipster students and adults too cheap - or arty and/or interested in "gentrifying" - to live west of the freeway.  If I drank beer or drank period, this would be my speed of bar: comfy wicker-back chairs or picnic tables, wifi, lights on, and nobody groping me.

And on that cheery note, the Tour d' Brew 2010 comes to a positive end: not at a Starbucks.  It's amazing what goodness you can find if you force yourself to go someplace new and different every day.  Without one or two fails, more than a few would-choose-to-go-backs, and plenty of places I drove by and didn't have a chance to try, I declare the iron-fisted hold of the 'Bucks to be broken.  At least in the twenty square miles surrounded by reality that is Austin.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Scene On The Trail: Only In Texas...

Would there be tumbleweeds at the bottom of the outdoor pools.  It's their authentic and appropriate take on aquaculture.  Or something.

But the view above water was pretty cool:


I promise there is a far wall.  Not everything is bigger in Texas; 25 yards is still 25 yards.

Friday, November 19, 2010

GTWD, or Miljø, or The Beer-Soaked Nordmann

My previous post took one approach to training and offered a slight - but meaningful! - variation.  The inversion of HTFU to GTWD, to GTWD with a dash of HTFU, and then S/LTFD.

Recall what I said: "Ok, so you know how to suffer.  Do you know how to make that a success?"  Part of the key to the (personal) success is GTWD.

But what exactly does that entail?

I wish I could remember how I happened upon this blog post, a first-person recount of a slightly drunken conversation.  Perhaps it is enough to say that since I first read it, I have thought about drunken Scandinavians maybe 5 out of every 7 days - and its message every single day.  Potent liquor indeed.

He said, “All that matters is you have a good miljø (which means culture and environment) and that you have the…(tried to explain ‘the fire within you’, but couldn’t).” He was very animated. “Where did you finish today?”

“50,” I lied.

“Ja. You are here now with (unnamed coach),” (places a beer in the lonely corner of the bar) “This is winning your Nationals.” (places a beer in front of him) “This is winning a World Cup.” (practically tosses a beer out of reach and off the bar) “If you want to win you need to train 1200 hours like Justyna (Kawuckchuck). You are not even close.” he said.

“That’s ridiculous! Not to mention totally ‘questionable’,” I said.

“But have you tried? No. That’s why you won’t win. If you train 1200 hours THEN you will know how to train. You are not even close.”

The thing that blew me away is that it was immediately apparent that he comes from a COMPLETELY different world than we do. He’s right, we aren’t even close. Nowhere near it.

When guys like him talk about training it’s not about getting faster or making some team, it’s about *winning world cups*. Even when he’s talking to someone he doesn’t know.

He’s right, he has the miljø, so he doesn’t have to consider second best. It’s tip-top or nothing. Train more, *lots* more. Don’t expect help, because you are the one that has to race. Don’t come to a workout and say “what are we doing today?” – just show up with a plan.

This energy I got from that beer soaked nordmann is something I can’t describe in writing.

Let's leave aside the fact that they are talking cross-country skiing, winning skiing races, and any specific training hours (which incidentally works out to about 23 hours/wk) for a second and zero in on the main message: do the training and then you will know how to do the training.

A classic Catch-22 if I have ever heard one, but oh so true.  Stop talking about "well, if I could train X hours a week, I would do Y, Z, A and B...and be able to take over the world and bench-press my car to boot."  Instead actually train those X hours for a (one) week (assuming something resembling an appropriate base).  It should really only take that week....and then and only then will you really know how to train - or how not to train - for X hours, and I don't (entirely) mean completing the hours and the training.  [Although you will learn a lot about not gunning every workout and your personal recovery pace.]

What I mean is how to support the hours and the training: What time to go to bed.  What time to wake up.  How to pack a bag for multiple sessions per day or a brick.  What to wear.  What to eat.  When to eat it.  How much of it to eat.  Where to do your sessions for efficiency and the best race-like conditions. What parts of you are most the painful - and thus are the weakest.  How to negotiate all of this with the other important people/factors in your life.

You will have taken the first step to constructing your personal miljø.

And after that, learn from what didn't work and extrapolate.  Train like that for a month - and you'll know how train like that for a month.  Then a year - and you'll know how to train like that for a year.  And eventually, you might actually be able to take over the world.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Lion And The Gazelle

Meet Gilbert.


Gilbert is from Burundi, but after nearly being burned alive as a victim of religious strife, he left it.  Running.  And he hasn't stopped since.  Running has taken him to some pretty damn fast marathons, some of which have been representing his country in the Olympics, and it brought him to Texas.

Gilbert's personal story of survival, strength, and success is a revelation for us all.  His Austin-based run training group - Gilbert's Gazelles - is a revelation for those who want to cover ground, fast and on foot. 

During my time in Austin, I've had the pleasure to be an interloper in Gilbert's group (which I should clarify is not just for NCAA All-Americans and the like).  Their energy, enthusiasm, and warm welcome made 5:45 am track workouts *gasp* something I looked forward to.  I absolutely recommend giving this group a look-see if you ever find yourself in Austin.

Gilbert was moving so fast that I could only get the banner to stand still

And I couldn't help but be reminded of one of my favorite - and particularly apropos - proverbs:

In Africa every morning a gazelle awakens knowing that it must outrun the fastest lion if it wants to stay alive.

Every morning a lion wakes up knowing that it must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.

It makes no difference whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up you had better be running.

Or already heading back to bed if you are a pre-dawn-track-workout-running gazelle of Gilbert's.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Caught Ya!

The part of Austin where I am staying is known for its deer population.  Multiple times people have described them to me as the neighborhood "rats": harmless, but ever-present.  And some of the friendliest composters and lawn-care specialists you'd ever want to meet!


Packs of deer kind of just wander around, following the clumps of trees that connect each property to those around it and eating the trees, plants, and fruit detritus. 

In the above picture, the lighter spot at the base of that tree is a cantaloupe rind.  There is another hunk at her feet, which I distracted her from eating when I stepped out the back door of my bunker to snap this picture.  I'd say she was 20 feet from my door.

See, My Gracious Host (and I and anyone else who stays here) simply tosses vegetable and fruit peels, rinds, cores, and seeds into the yard and the deer do the rest.  I have learned they are not fans of citrus because as I was working my way through a Costco-sized box of oranges, the lawn looked like I was making a fruit-salad with a wood chipper, but slowly and eventually they disappeared.  Avocado skin and apple cores kind of get an "eh."  Banana peels are a step above that, perhaps "hmm, someone is looking out to make sure we don't get scurvy."  But cantaloupe.  Cantaloupe is the bee's knees.  Cantaloupe is "oh doggie, Christmas came early."



Soon I had a pack of 6 or so hanging around.  Now I need to eat some more canteloupe!

Monday, November 15, 2010

FU HTFU

Is anyone else tired of, or tired from, 24-7 HTFU?  [If you don't know what it means, you're going to need to search elsewhere to find out.  This is a family friendly blog, mostly.] 

I learned about it for the first time when, during the Tour de France, a rider was in a terrible, life-threatening accident.  His teammates found rubber bracelets, similar to the infamous Livestrong ones but black, that said nothing but that acronym.  As in "our teammate is lying in the hospital with a fractured skull, two broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a cracked femur, and serious road rash and all we have to do today is ride our fancy lightweight bikes in a race.  So stop complaining and HTFU already." 

At the time it made sense; it was a rally cry for a fallen comrade and a realignment of priorities and perceptions having to do with pain, suffering, and "poor me" attitudes.  Now it has become a favorite of those who lack the self-confidence to troll their own depths for perseverance on a regular basis, and also for those who know no other way to motivate others.  It's a secret handshake done to death, like the Bloods gang symbol someone taught me to throw in my Midwestern middle school study hall.  Somehow I think the real Bloods would not be fooled, just like how I am no longer fooled or impressed by the never-ending throwing down of the HTFU gauntlet.

Ok, so you know how to suffer.  Do you know how to turn that into success?

I believe things come in waves.  Things like the level of motivation and training build periods - and trends.  HTFU has ruled the day and probably will again. 

Until then, GTWD (perhaps sprinkled with a few timely and tiny doses of HTFU) and then STFD.  Or even better, LTFD.  That is the true and timeless secret handshake.  One that if you learn to throw properly will actually get you into the gang.

KCCO.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Every Town Needs A Trail - And A Treadmill

Never has an underpass been so inhabited.


The parking lot under MoPac or Loop 1, at the south edge of the west end of Town Lake, is always comfortably full.  A spot is always available to those just arriving because someone is always just leaving.  The same goes for every parking lot along the length of the lake, at each bridge crossing.  The bridges dissect the crushed stone trail around the lake into manageable and convenient distances (3, 4, 5, 7, or 10 miles) for the walkers, runners, and riders who constantly circle the man-made accumulation of water. 

I'll save myself the other 800 words
Show up, pick your distance, enjoy: Choose Your Own Run!

Technically, Town Lake isn't a lake.  It is a river with a dam at the east end, with a dam a good distance upstream creating another lake to the west and so on.

Downstream to downtown

Upstream to the hills - and Dell-ionaires

Then again, technically the Town Lake Trail isn't a crushed stone path.  It is Austin's public treadmill.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Epicenter

In 1980, at the corner of West 5th and North Lamar Sts, the world shifted slightly on its axis and resettled a little to the left, never to be the same again. 

Did you feel it? You may not have then, but I guarantee you do now.

Loyal Readers!  Behold! The Original Whole Foods!

The Mothership...don't look it directly in the eye or your may never escape its tractor beam
And boy, oh boy, does it come with all the bells and whistles.

The largest bulk section I have EVER SEEN (next to CandyLand of course)
Bobbing for groceries?
the death of every diet
The liquid bread aisle
~ 1/10th of the food court
It is actually hard to convey how overwhelming the prepared food selection is.  Specific counters for specific diets/needs - vegan, BBQ, handmade chocolate, juice, coffee, sushi... - are spread around the entire store, in addition to the ho-hum salad bar and three (3)(!) hot food bars - American, international, casserole/veggie - not counting the soup bar.  Plus the food court, which takes the damage to your credit card to a whole other level completely.

Meat- and Heat-Free food
Could Whole Foods cater your wedding?

I pray to all that is good and holy that the P St. Whole Foods gets this bell/whistle soon.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sushi A-Go-Go

 A hipster Japanese man sits in a kitchen on wheels....

No that isn't the opening a horrible joke.  It's how I met Yoshi-san, a local sushi chef.



One aspect of keeping Austin weird is the trailer food.  And the trailer parks of trailer food.  In many places spread around the city paved lots are zoned for multiple trailers, each selling a very specific type of food.  Burgers and BBQ are fairly common, as is coffee.  One lot had a doughnut trailer and a (local) farm-to-trailer health food trailer.  Cupcakes, ribs, pizza, crepes...and sushi.

I'd been eying the sushi cart for several days and one drive-by it resonated so deeply with the hunger in my gut, I pulled a U-turn up and over a sidewalk to get at a California roll or four.


I don't actually eat raw fish (yes, I know, then why do I eat sushi....because sushi is, by construction, the Gu of real food: carbs, veggies, protein, electrolytes and there is nothing more gastronomically satisfying than downing a piece of sushi in one bite) so Yoshi whipped me up some grilled steak, candied jalapenos, and various veggies, and a few all veggie rolls.  And I'm sure I'll roll up on my bike at some point for miso soup after a hot ride!

You can too.  Yoshi, his cutlery, and the Sushi A-Go-Go trailer is waiting for you on Barton Springs Road, two blocks east of Jack & Adam's bike shop.


Monday, November 8, 2010

The House Built By Swimming Built By The House

A lot of athletes take pride in just how rundown their training facilities can be while still contributing to their success.  But sometimes athletic facilities and athlete development evokes the chicken/egg dilemma: do beautiful facilities make the athletes or do athletes warrant the facilities?

I'm not going to answer that dilemma, but instead conclude that an answer may not be needed when you can wallpaper your facility - newly constructed or long condemned - with National Championship banners.  And when winning another one will bring up the uncomfortable question of just where are we going to put this?

Welcome to the UT-Austin Texas Swim Center.  If the mere sight of the gleaming tiles and sparkling water doesn't make you swim faster - or feel unworthy, then perhaps a record board chock full of recognizable Olympic-medal winning names will.  Add a masters coach with Olympic bling of her own at home and I'm thinking I might need to go back to my "dump"...

Someone named Phelps is listed at least twice, he and this Peirsol fella must be pretty good
gallons and gallons just waiting...

the banners in this picture are just from 1987-1991...5 years, 4 banners...
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